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Rama Pilot to contest against Vasundhara Raje

Rajesh Pilot's widow will take on BJP?s chief ministerial candidate Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan's Jhalrapatan assembly seat.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2003 04:28 IST
DK Singh

Pulling up an ace on Rajasthan BJP chief Vasundhara Raje, the Congress fielded Dausa MP Rama Pilot against her from Jhalarapatan seat in Jhalawar district.

Pilot filed the nomination papers about half an hour before Raje reached the sub-divisional magistrate's office here, leading a procession of drum-beating and fire-cracking supporters. The two contenders missed each other by barely five minutes.

Congress had earlier declared to field sitting Jhalarapatan MLA Mohanlal Rathore again. Had Raje not decided at the eleventh hour to withdraw her declaration to contest from Pidawa also, the Congress was said to have kept Pilot ready to follow her even there.

Although Rathore, flanking Pilot, also filed nomination, it was not known who would be the dummy Congress candidate from this high profile seat.

November 17 is the last date for withdrawal.

The news about Pilot's entry poured in as Raje, who flew down here at 10.30 am from Jaipur to file nomination, was on her way to the party office to perform puja after visiting temples of Ganesha and Hanuman, hugging women waiting outside and waving at curious onlookers and passers-by.

Apparently tipped off about Pilot, Raje had a closed door meeting with BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, former civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and other senior leaders here.

Looking relaxed after filing her nomination, Raje was "not worried" about the Congress attempt to bog her down in her own constituency by fielding a formidable candidate.

"This (Jhalawar) is my family, my home. Why should I worry? I have already talked to them that I will have to focus on the entire State," she said.

Mahajan took a swipe at the Congress in his familiar style: "This is the Congress style. When they need a leader for the country, they bring her from Italy. When they needed one in Jhalarapatan, they brought her from Dausa."

Pilot, flanked by son Sachin, was all smiles when asked about her sudden appearance. "Such things happen in politics sometimes."

Pilot is considered to be a formidable contender here given the caste equations. She could bank on about 27,000 Gurjar voters, given the Congress background of the BJP's Jhalawar Zila Pramukh, Sujan Singh Gurjar, who was denied ticket by the BJP from this seat.

There are about 18,000 Muslim votes in this constituency of 1.71 lakh electorate. The Brahmins and the Rajputs together constitute about 25,000 votes, the recent reservation politics has given rise to speculations about their loyalty with the BJP.

First Published: Nov 15, 2003 00:00 IST